NEW YORK: The growth of eSports could present significant opportunities for marketers seeking to connect with fans of competitive gaming in countries including the US and China.

Axios, the news outlet, quoted figures from research firm Newzoo stating that the global eSports sector will be worth $906m in 2018, up from $605m last year.

North America will contribute $345m to this burgeoning industry, making the largest geographical market, with China posting $164m.

Brand investments – spanning media rights, advertising and sponsorship – are pegged to hit $694m worldwide this year, compared with $468m in 2017.

In the US, that growth is being driven, in part, by blue-chip marketers such as Gillette exploring this terrain, gaming companies expanding their activities, and even traditional sports rightsholders moving into the category.

Amazon’s Twitch, a streaming property focused around eSports, also recently set the target of generating $1bn in ad revenue, according to a Bloomberg report.

Some industry-watchers, however, suggest this move may lead to brand safety concerns, as well as potentially alienating creators, diluting the site’s communal feel, and raising piracy worries.

Turning to China, Humphrey Ho, managing partner at Hylink, a digital ad agency, argued several factors are shaping the rise of eSports in the country.

Among these underlying processes, he reported, are long commute times to work, rapid technological advancements, and even social loneliness.

“Gaming in China is a micro economy around franchises, regardless of where game stems from,” he told Axios. “We’ve made leagues out of eSports franchises, even reality shows ... The hardcore user in the US is the mild user in China.”

Major tech enterprises such as Alibaba and Tencent are leading the charge in this space, and also integrating their eSports offerings across digital channels, including messaging apps.

Looking ahead, Newzoo estimates that global eSports revenues should exceed $1.6bn by 2021, with brands responsible for almost $1.4bn of this total.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting company, similarly predicts that eSports revenue will increase from $620m in 2017 to $1.6bn by 2020.

Sourced from Axios, Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff